PVD UnFest Is Coming

Looks like our new mayor has run the popular PVDFest through the fun-extraction machine. The event has been moved to the weekend of September 8th, moved to the South Water Street WaterFire location, and scheduled to coincide with a WaterFire. Sooooo it’s WaterFire, but more crowded. But wait there’s more: The Mayor has ruled out block parties, the Fest bars, and the carrying of open containers. So, it’s WaterFire but much less fun. From the statement issued by the Mayor’s office:

Each year, PVDFest has welcomed over 100,000 people to Downtown Providence. 2023 PVDFest will not have open container or PVDFest bars on the footprint to amplifying [sic] the festivals [sic] economic impact on local restaurants and bars. We are encouraging festival goers to experience local offerings throughout the City of Providence.

In other words: Go to WaterFire and eat in a restaurant. Oh wow, who was this guy in high school? I’m afraid we’ve got the student council rep running the prom. But it is free — not the restaurants of course — but “everything else.”

On the website is a call for “Big Ideas!” The Mayor seems to consider PVDFest as Phase I of Imagining America National Gathering which does not sound like a party at all, but rather an earnest seminar where we can “dialogue” and “strategize.” And that takes place in Providence only one month later in October.

While the bulk of resources and energy put towards PVDFest Ideas will be directed to ensuring the success of the National Gathering, ACT may select a small number of projects to feature during Phase I (September 8-10).

I would prefer that the bulk of resources be put towards reviving the PVDFest that has made us so happy in years past. People need fun! Now more than ever.

As to the location, what the Mayor fails to understand is that locating the festival downtown was a big part of what made it special: The light shows projected on familiar buildings, those kinetic Pneuhaus light sculptures hanging in improbable locations (seen here), the aerial dancers rappelling down buildings, bands playing while being hauled about on cycled stages, enormous puppets, and the joy of stumbling upon a favorite band playing in a parking lot and everybody dancing . . . and washing down street food with a beer while wandering around the hot summer streets.

WPRI asked Mayor Smiley about the location change: “His reasoning? To further promote and better accommodate WaterFire.” What? Does he think WaterFire is in need of promotion? They can always use more money, sure, but these events are well attended. If anything, it’s like Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”


By the way, “One week left until the deadline to submit for the PVDFest artist portal.” Deadline, June 20th. This from the FB page where you can see all sorts of photographs of how much fun this event used to be.

Businesses have until August 4th to apply for a Special Event permit which would allow for “expansion of premises.” This will be restricted to parking spaces only: “no parking lot closures will be permitted.” And if I understand this letter . . . “security required.” So restaurants can bump out a bit in front and they’ll have to hire security?




2 thoughts on “PVD UnFest Is Coming”

  1. He’s the mayor because the progressive vote was split in the primary, making 8,000 votes enough to install him in office. It seems like he knows he’ll only have one chance to enact his terrible ideas.

  2. Dr Tim Timmons

    Ok 2 things
    1 is there a safety concern? I know there was a shooting a couple of years ago, is the mayor concerned that the old approach may not be feasible with a 20% reduction in police force? Or was he privy to other security concerns he isn’t sharing?

    2 there are other downtown activities during the summer (Pride. The Saturday block parties etc) so maybe Smiley just wanted to put his own stamp on this event – if people are that worked up about it how about getting the folks at AS220 (you know the “break eggs to make an omelet” people) to restart foo fest? If you are truly upset (i know it costs a lot to run) donate them some money or volunteer to help out?

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